Specter of Reason's public displays of atheism notes that "Atheism--or, rather, public atheism--has a largely political dimension" because it "often entails political views about the role of religion in society:"
Public atheism is becoming more and more acceptable, and I'm optimistic that the situation will continue to improve. More and more efforts are being made at philosophical engagement, and in a wide variety of public venues. There's much room for improvement, of course. The effects are not always heartening, but at least efforts are being made. The biggest changes will come when public policies change, especially policies about education and the rights of religious institutions.
For atheists like me, there is one issue that matters most in all of this: the role of religious authority in society. [...] Public atheism is first and foremost about putting religious authority in its proper place. For us, to be a public atheist just is to deny that there is any objectively valid moral authority which religions could claim and to deny that religious authority is similar to, equal to, or in any methodological or philosophical sense compatible with scientific authority. If we cannot argue these points in public, then we cannot be public atheists in the way that is meaningful to us.
The author discusses various moral theories, noting that "People just don't understand these [moral and cognitive] issues, but they think they do:"
That's the real problem: people are ignorant of their own ignorance. [the Dunning-Kruger effect] The public needs exposure to what atheists actually think--not in an inaccessible, academic way, but in a clear, practical and relevant way. Right now, they're mostly relying on misinformation when they criticize atheists.
Ophelia Benson is even less willing to settle for the status quo. She observes that "atheism is first and foremost about the rejection of religious authority, in an existing context in which religious authority is not just not rejected, not even just welcomed and embraced, but made all-but-mandatory:"
If religious authority weren't always being shoved at us, it might seem otiose to bother rejecting it, but that's not the situation we're in - not in the US and not entirely in other parts of the Anglophone world either, let alone more frankly theocratic states. The pope thinks he has every right to order women to bear children they don't want to bear, and to tell hospitals not to save the lives of pregnant women if it takes an abortion to do that.